Ottawa

Ottawa has a concerning resurgence of COVID-19, public health says

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says it is concerned by the resurgence of COVID-19 in the city and has informed Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

Health unit reaching out directly to tens of thousands eligible for another vaccine dose

Three people, two of them in masks, walk through the 'Polar Vortex' exhibit at the Fire and Ice festival on Bank Street in Ottawa earlier this month. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says it is concerned by the resurgence of COVID-19 in the city and has informed Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said in a statement Wednesday OPH is directly reaching out to people over age 50 who are eligible for another vaccine dose to help them gain better protection against symptoms and hospitalization.

OPH data shows there are about 60,000 people in this age range with two doses, but not three. For age groups under 50, fewer than two-thirds of residents have a third dose.

The average level of coronavirus in Ottawa's wastewater has risen exponentially in the last two to three weeks. Levels have only been higher during waves in spring 2021 and early winter 2022, though records aren't available for the first wave.

Sunday had the third-highest daily wastewater signal on record. Monday and Tuesday's measurements were slightly lower, giving some indication of a potential peak.

After a lull in February and early March, Ottawa's coronavirus wastewater levels are back where they were around January's Omicron peak. (613covid.ca)

Etches also pointed to the high test positivity average for eligible people outside of long-term care homes, which was around 17 per cent.

She recommends people stay home when sick and wear masks indoors, especially in crowded spaces. Mask mandates were lifted March 21 in Ontario, while both capacity limits and the province's vaccine system were scrapped three weeks earlier.

"Rather than going a little slowly, we kind of all of the sudden had a lot more opportunities for COVID transmission," Etches told CBC News in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

"And so we're seeing the [infection rate] rise faster."

The head of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table has issued a similar message, urging people to voluntarily wear masks as the province's hospitalization count once again starts to climb.

OPH officials had previously said a rise in COVID spread was expected as rules around gatherings and masks eased, and noted the key was whether the rise became concerning enough to talk to the province about rule changes.

The pace of the current resurgence is occurring "more rapidly than the science table had projected," Etches told CBC.

Hospitalizations in Ottawa remain stable, Etches said, while outbreaks appeared stable this week but had recently risen. Still, those often follow surges in case numbers and could still go up in the days and weeks to come, she added.

Etches said one major difference between the current resurgence and the Omicron-driven wave in December and January is that many more people are now boosted.

Ontario plans to lift all pandemic rules in four weeks.

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